LIMA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday met the man he calls his hero, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and unburdened his gripes about US “hypocrisy,” “bullying” and foreign wars.
Duterte, who has publicly expressed his admiration for the Russian leader, said the Cold War had stood between their two countries as the Philippines, a former US colony, was historically identified with the West.
But that has changed now that he is president.
Since taking office in June, the foul-mouthed Duterte has upended the Philippines’ historical military alliance with the United States, repeatedly saying he was shifting toward China and Russia as he embarks on an independent foreign policy.
“It was good (while) it lasted,” Duterte told Putin of what he has called his “separation” from the US.
“Of late, I see a lot of these Western nations bullying small nations. And not only that, they are into so much hypocrisy,” he said during their 45-minute meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Peruvian capital Lima.
“And they seem to start a war but are afraid to go to war. That is what is wrong with America and the others. They’ve been waging wars in so many places — in Vietnam, in Afghanistan and in Iraq for one single reason that there was a weapon of mass destruction, and there was none.”
Duterte also said the US “forced” the Philippines to contribute soldiers in its wars in Vietnam and Iraq.
When Manila pulled out non-combat troops that were part of the US-led coalition against Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2004 following threats to behead a kidnapped Filipino worker there, Washington “made it hard for us,” Duterte told Putin in a video shot by the Philippine presidential palace broadcast team.
“These are the things I see which is not a good idea,” Duterte said in English.
He also said the Philippines longed to be part of Europe.
“We’ve been longing to be part also of — despite the distance — we have been longing to be part of Europe, especially in commerce and trade around the world.”
Duterte, who has cultivated an image as a no-nonsense leader, said last month that “my favourite hero is Putin.”
He has also said that he and Putin seem to share a passion for guns and women.
Favourite targets for his abusive verbal tirades are US President Barack Obama, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the European Union.
All three have expressed concern over Duterte’s iron-fisted policy against drugs, which they said violated human rights and due process.
Duterte missed the gala dinner at the APEC summit Saturday evening, sending a message to the hosts that he was sick.
Staying put in his hotel may have avoided a potentially awkward encounter with Obama, who cancelled a meeting with him at another summit in September after Duterte called him a “son of a whore.”